Canadian James Naismith (1861–1939)—a physical education teacher from Springfield, MA—invented the game of basketball in 1891 when he was looking for ways to keep his gym class busy on a rainy day.
In the early 1900s, basketball players played in cages of chicken wire and mesh to keep players from falling into spectator seats. Players would often get injured during the intense games.
Originally, two teams of 9 players made up a basketball game, a number that was based on the standard number of players on a baseball team. Later, the teams were reduced to 5 players on the court.
During a 1977 court fight between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets, forward Kermit Washington nearly fatally punched forward Rudy Tomjanovich. “The Punch,” as it has been called, dislocated Tomjanovich’s jaw and caused spinal fluid to leak from his brain. He recalled tasting the fluid in his mouth.
Known as the most infamous brawl in NBA history, the Pacers-Piston altercation (also known as “Malice in the Palace”) on November 19, 2004, was a massive fight that involved both players and spectators. The NBA suspended 9 players, for a total of $11 million in lost salaries. Five fans also received criminal charges and were banned from Piston home games for life.
The first basketball hoops were peach baskets with the bottom intact. Officials had to get the ball out after each basket. The first string nets were used in the early 1900s.
After basketball player Latrell Sprewell attacked and choked coach P.J. Carlesimo in 1997, he received a 68-game suspension, the second longest in the history of the NBA. Sprewell choked Carlesimo for about 15 seconds before other players pulled him off.
Early basketball hoops were nailed to the mezzanine balcony of the court. After spectators in the balcony continually interfered with shots, the backboard was invented.
Basketball incorporated rules from a children’s game called “Duck on a Rock,” in which a stone was placed on an elevated object, such as a tree stump, with a player guarding it. Other players would try to knock the stone off by throwing “ducks” or rocks.
Early basketball games used soccer balls (1891–1950s). Players would rub coal dust on their hands to grip the ball better.
Initially, dribbling was not a large part of the game. Players would catch the ball, be allowed a few steps to slow down, stop, and then throw the ball from that spot. Once the modern basketball was invented in the 1950s, dribbling became a crucial part of the game.
The Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League merged on August 5, 1976, creating the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In a horrifying injury during a 2006 college basketball tournament game, Villanova player Allen Ray’s eye popped out after a Pittsburgh player injured it. Doctors were able to pop the eye back in, and he regained his vision.
The International Basketball Federation (IBF) requires that a basketball bounces between 3.9 feet and 4.6 feet, measured from the top of the ball. The ball must reach this height when dropped from 5.9 feet.
The record for the longest ever NBA suspension goes to Ron Artest, a player for the Indiana Pacers. During the 2004 Pistons-Pacers brawl, he charged the stands and heaved punches at fans after a fan threw a cup at him. He was suspended for 73 games as well as 13 playoff games. He also lost $7 million in salary.
A warm basketball is bouncier than a cold one because the molecules in the warm ball hit its inside surface at a higher speed.